updated 5/3/2007 12:42:39 PM ET 2007-05-03T16:42:39

Guests: Mike Duhaime, Ben Ginsberg, Jim Webb, Mike Barnicle, Bertha Coombs, Jim Vandehei, Eugene Robinson, Duke Blackwood

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  George W. Bush is the country‘s president, but the battle for his succession begins in full throttle here in the Reagan Library.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews reporting from the Ronald Reagan Library in California where tomorrow 10 Republican presidential candidates will meet for their first debate of the 2008 campaign.  I will be moderating that debate here on MSNBC with our online partner politico.com. 

Tonight, we hear from the campaigns as the candidates gear up. 

Plus, advice from somebody who knows what it takes to succeed in debates, former presidential candidate Jack Kemp.

And later we will take a look around the Reagan Library, a grand windswept monument to America‘s 40th president. 

But we start this hour with two advisers to Republican candidates who will be debating here tomorrow night.  Ben Ginsberg is a senior adviser to the Mitt Romney campaign.  And we begin with Rudy Giuliani‘s campaign manager, Mike Duhaime. 

Mike, thank you for joining us.  Your guy is going to be here tomorrow night.  Will he take on the other candidates, or will he play it safe? 

MIKE DUHAIME, GIULIANI CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  Thanks, Chris.  Thanks for having me.  I think what you are going to see tomorrow is Mayor Giuliani as somebody who is fit to be president.  He is a tremendous leader, somebody with a tremendous record both as an economic conservative and somebody who will keep us free from terrorism and safe from terrorism.  And I think how the debate goes, you will be in more control of that than I will. 

MATTHEWS:  You are—well, I don‘t think I‘m in control, because I really do think I can interview the candidates as a group and see whether they go to battle with each other.  I will tell you one thing without getting into specifics, because I want to keep some of this under wraps, but clearly, your guy is the frontrunner, and it must not be a surprise to you that he is taking some incoming these days. 

DUHAIME:  Well, I think, you know, this is a long campaign, and the American people and Republican primary voters are going to get to see all of the candidates over time.  And I am confident that when they see Mayor Giuliani and his record, they are going to be—he is going to be a Republican that they are going to be proud to support. 

This is somebody who has cut taxes, cut spending, been a true supply-sider as mayor of New York, took one of the—took a city that many called ungovernable and did a great job cutting crime, getting people off of welfare.  And obviously this is somebody who has been tested in times of great crisis and obviously come through with flying colors. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he going to like it if the other candidate take a shot at him tomorrow night here? 

DUHAIME:  I do not know if anybody would like that very much, but this is—Mayor Giuliani is a very tough person.  I think he has been through some tough wars in his day.  This is somebody who has been the number three person in the Reagan Justice Department, somebody who was a U.S. attorney who took on the mafia and white-collar criminals.  This is not somebody who is not going to be certainly, you know, troubled by anything that happens in the debate. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you to do the work for him tomorrow night and let me let you be St. John the Baptist for his savior.  Let me ask you this, is he the Ronald Reagan successor?  Is he the man seeking the Reagan mantle out here at the Reagan Library? 

DUHAIME:  Well, I think anybody would love to be known as Ronald Reagan‘s successor.  I do think that Mayor Giuliani‘s record is one that Ronald Reagan would be—I would hope, would be proud of.  Nobody can speak for Ronald Reagan, of course.  But this is somebody who served in Reagan‘s administration in the Justice Department. 

This is somebody who has a tremendous record in terms of economic issues, security issues that is very much in the Reagan mold.  And I do not know that anybody should try to be the next Ronald Reagan.  Mayor Giuliani is going to be Rudy Giuliani.  And that is who he is, and that is why I think the American public is going to ultimately support him. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you ready for a tough question? 

DUHAIME:  Well, as ready as I will ever be, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Mike, do you want a tough question?  Well, let me ask you a tough question.  I though the best speech given at the 2004 Republican Convention in New York was your candidate, and one of the most impressive lines I have ever heard in politics was when he stood before the people of your party and said, our party is not always right, the other party is not always wrong. 

I want to ask you, when is your party not always right?  Give me examples of when the Republican Party has been wrong because this is what your candidate said at the Republican Convention. 

DUHAIME:  I think that is just a general governing philosophy from the mayor and I think it is one that people from both parties should be aware.  Neither party has the market on good ideas or bad ideas.  Everything that the Democrats say is not always wrong.  Everything that we say is not always right.  I would argue that we are right a heck of a lot more than they are. 

But I do think that that is reflective more of the mayor‘s governing philosophy.  This is somebody who governed with a council that was overwhelmingly Democrat, yet was still able to cut 23 taxes, able to cut $8 billion in taxes, and, as I said, reduce crime, reduce welfare.  I think that speaks to his philosophy of bringing people together. 

MATTHEWS:  How does a pro-choice Republican run on a pro-life platform? 

DUHAIME:  This is somebody—I mean, the mayor is going to be who he is.  And he is going to—as Ronald Reagan once said, you know, my 80 percent enemy is not—my 80 percent ally is not my 20 percent enemy.  People get to judge and vote for candidates on a variety of issues.  I think when they look at Mayor Giuliani, they will look at his entire record. 

This is somebody who says what he believes.  This is somebody who most conservative Republicans are going to line up with on many issues.  There is probably no candidate that any voter could point to and say I agree on every single issue with this person.  It is going to be up to each individual voter to say, this is somebody I agree with more than I disagree with, and then ultimately make their decision. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he meaner and tougher than the other candidates? 

DUHAIME:  I do not know about—you know, I don‘t want to necessarily compare him to the other candidates, but this is somebody who has certainly demonstrated an ability to do the job and not shrink away in time that are very tough and situations that are tough in places that—problems that many people see as ungovernable, and certainly in times where his—certainly in times of terrible crisis.  This is somebody who is certainly tough enough to get the job done.  I am certain of that. 

MATTHEWS:  Who would win a street fight?  Rudy Giuliani—just think of a street fight now over in Queens somewhere.  It is a dark night, it is about 2:00 in the morning.  Two guys are out behind the building, right?  On a vacant lot.  Rudy Giuliani or President Ahmadinejad, who would win that fight? 

DUHAIME:  I am putting my money on Rudy on that one.  I think Rudy is the—I think Rudy will take that fight. 

MATTHEWS:  If he wins that notion, he is the next president.  That is one to look for.  Who is tougher than Ahmadinejad, because he is our biggest worry right now.  Thank you very much, Mike Duhaime, who is campaign manager of the Rudy Giuliani campaign.  Of course he will be joining the other candidates here tomorrow night at the Reagan Library for their first big debate.  And joining us right now is a familiar face on HARDBALL, Romney camp spokesperson Ben Ginsberg. 

You just heard this.

BEN GINSBERG, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  I‘m a humble lawyer—I‘m just a humble lawyer.

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you this, do you think Romney has got—can he take the—roll up the sleeves and get out there and have a street fight with Ahmadinejad?  Is he tough enough to beat Rudy at that notion of being tough? 

GINSBERG:  Well, he would never fight Rudy.  Yes, he is tough enough to win the fight with the foreign leader, sure.  Because he is a man of principle and a man of intellect.

MATTHEWS:  Can‘t you pronounce the name Ahmadinejad?

GINSBERG:  I can most of the time.  But not all of the time.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, how much of this campaign is really about who is going to protect us in a dangerous world? 

GINSBERG:  Oh, I think a fair amount of it is.  But there are, in addition to that, a number of constructs that you have to do to solve the problems of America domestically.  And what Governor Romney brings to it is the fresh perspective of someone who is not from Washington, and that is an important trait in this primary campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Another one of them, huh?  How many presidents have we had

not to denigrate the power of being not from Washington.  I worked from a guy named Jimmy Carter.  He was not from Washington.  Ronald Reagan was not from Washington.  Whoever runs and says, I am from Washington? 

GINSBERG:  Well, a number of people in this current field do because they have been there for 25 years. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Who is from Washington that you want to denigrate for having worked in Washington? 

GINSBERG:  I don‘t want to denigrate.

MATTHEWS:  Any U.S. senator is somehow a problem, right?  Are you saying that being a senator is a problem?

GINSBERG:  Well, I think if you look—for example, if you looked at the Democratic debate, the way the Democrats dealt with the construct of the way they answered a number of the questions, they were Washington people.  I think you will see, and it is one of the fresh ideas that the Republican Party will bring in general, Governor Romney in particular, is you will see a number of people on the stage tomorrow night who do have that perspective of being from outside Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You are from Washington. 

GINSBERG:  I am.

MATTHEWS:  Mary Matalin is from Washington.  A good number of people

from the White—West Wing, I mean, in a way, Romney is the West Wing

candidate, is he not?  How many of you have gone over from George W. Bush -

working for this establishment, inside-the-Beltway president to go work for Romney?  And now you are telling me, he is some sort of—why would you want to go for somebody without experience in Washington if you are somebody with it?  Why do you think he needs you? 

GINSBERG:  Well, I am not sure why he needs me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But why do these guys—now just a general critique.  Why do they all brag about not knowing anything about Washington, and the first thing they do is sign up a bunch of Washington regulars? 

GINSBERG:  Well, because their ideas run the campaigns.  But there are certain mechanics to politics that a number of.

MATTHEWS:  You are plumber, huh?

GINSBERG:  . us—we are plumbers.  We are techie guys. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And yet he is probably asking you what to say in the debate tomorrow night.

GINSBERG:  Duhaime and I worked in the Bush campaign together.

MATTHEWS:  See, see, this is the thing.  This is the thing.  You coach guys on how to talk like that are not from Washington, and you are from Washington. 

GINSBERG:  No, listen.

MATTHEWS:  You guys are unbelievable. 

GINSBERG:  Governor Romney is not a guy who needs coaching. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  All right.  That is a very.

(CROSSTALK)

GINSBERG:  He is the one who has his own ideas. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  . I know you have to say that.  But what do you bring to his campaign?  You are a Washington expert.  You know about campaign financing, you know the law.  You know how to keep them honest.  You know good stuff.  What else do you bring to the campaign? 

GINSBERG:  Well, my role is one of helping him with a highly technical, very regulated industry of the law.  There are a number of people on all of the campaigns who bring a perspective of having worked in a campaign before.  You all, the press in part, the travel that you have to do, the rules in the different states, gives some value to experience.  The same reason guys like you get to moderate the debates.  You have got the experience of working in politics. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Right.  So he has.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What does Romney bring in?  You know what businesses—we always say, what is the unique selling point?  Why buy a Buick and not buy a Dodge, or whatever?  What is the unique—I am giving you a minute here, just like the candidates tomorrow night, I‘m giving you 60 seconds.  What makes former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney the best man to be the Republican nominee this time? 

GINSBERG:  A stimulating combination of vision and intellect and fresh ideas.  He brings a business background where he was tremendously successful in terms of turning around bad situations into positive situations. 

He brought back to the Salt Lake Olympics where he took a situation that was in deep trouble and brought it around brilliantly to be a true success for the entire country.  And as governor of Massachusetts, he governed with conservative principles in the bluest of the blue states with some truly signature achievements in that time. 

MATTHEWS:  So you write this stuff.

GINSBERG:  That was less than 60 seconds. 

MATTHEWS:  That was very well-done.  I think.

GINSBERG:  That was less than 60 seconds. 

MATTHEWS:  But you—in other words, by your definition, Donald Trump would make one hell of a president. 

GINSBERG:  Well, no, I.

MATTHEWS:  He has done a lot turnaround work with corporations.  He has built things up.  He has succeeded. 

GINSBERG:  But there are others...

MATTHEWS:  Why not Donald Trump then if this is the game we are playing here?  Better business guy.

GINSBERG:  You asked me the positive attributes to Mitt Romney. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, it was good.  It was very well-said.  I think if the governor were to say—in fact, to use the very words you used tonight tomorrow night, he will be held...

(CROSSTALK)

GINSBERG:  It will be exciting for the American people to able to see that. 

MATTHEWS:  And I think as long as those cards are handy, he will—just kidding.  Anyway, Ben Ginsberg, a pro, a man from inside the Beltway. 

The first in the country Republican debate is tomorrow, as I said, right here at the Reagan Library at 8:00 Eastern time.  Here at the library it is a beautiful place up here on the top of a mountain where they used to make cowboy movies.  I will be moderating, and you can see it on MSNBC, of course, right here, and at our online partner politico.com. 

Up next, now that President Bush vetoed the war funding bill, will the Democrats sent him a bill he will sign?  Negotiations are under way.  It looks like both sides want to deal now, at least in the short term.  You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I will not make age an issue of this campaign.  I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent‘s youth and inexperience.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  President Bush vetoed the war spending that Congress gave him yesterday.  And today the House couldn‘t muster the votes to override the president.  Of course, it takes two-thirds votes, they didn‘t have them, and this while casualties mount in Iraq.  We had a terrible month last month, a hundred Americans killed over there.  So what is next?  Stalemate or compromise?  I‘m joined now from Capitol Hill by Virginia Senator Jim Webb.

Senator, last night, President Bush stood with the Jefferson Memorial in the background.  They orchestrated it so that it window up right behind him would have the Jefferson Memorial in full view.  Who under the Constitution, in the spirit of Jefferson, should be making this war and peace decision about Iraq? 

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA:  Well, the Congress declares war—

Congress decides to commence war.  The president conducts the war.  But we also have the power to appropriate the money.  We sent him a $124 billion check.  It had some necessary restrictions in it, I think, at this point.  He decided under his constitutional prerogative to veto it. 

So here we go.  I mean, this is a situation where both branches are acting under the Constitution, but I think we sent him a vote of no-confidence.  He needs to start listening to the American people on this, and we need a different formula. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you worried that the Democrats, in opposing the war funding without the strings attached, will find themselves up against all wall in a couple of weeks and find themselves actually cutting off money to the troops? 

WEBB:  I don‘t think that is going to happen.  What I am hoping the next step will be, among others, is that the Democratic leadership should insist in keeping at a minimum the provisions in this bill that preclude the administration from continually sending these troops back without the amount of time that they should have for rest, recuperation, and refurbishment back here. 

We had a provision in there that basically says if you are gone for a year, you deserve to be back here for at least a year.  And the military guidelines, themselves, basically say if you are gone for a year, you ought to be back here for at least two years and that this administration has just extended Army deployments for 15 months with only a year back here. 

And that is a provision I think basically says, look, you can‘t keep a burning up the troops while you are not moving forward on the diplomatic front.  So I hope they keep that in there.  And by the way, I think one piece of hopeful news which has not been much reported today is this conference that has been convened in Egypt where, for the first time in 28 days, we are seeing, at the ministerial level, the government of the United States and Iran represented in a multinational conference.

So maybe we can get things going here, get the regional solution that we need, and start moving forward. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about the trickiness here.  You have to get 51 votes in the Senate.  You have to get 218 in the House for some kind of bill to take to the president the second time.  Do you thing that you can get those numbers with a bill that still has strings attached, like you just described in terms of training and rotation? 

WEBB:  I think we can get—I mean, I am not in the leadership, but I think it is logical to assume that if we got 51 votes in something with more strings attached, we could get 51 to send him back something else.  But I think really what would have to happen here.

MATTHEWS:  Even though you are getting closer—the reason is, you are getting closer to the deadline where it really matters.  That is why I am asking. 

WEBB:  Right.  Well, what I am hearing is.

MATTHEWS:  It is a game of chicken in a sense.

WEBB:  Well, what I am hearing is that—and this—you know, again, I am not in the leadership, I am hearing there might be a two-month appropriation while we try to sort this out, but really what has got to happen here is that the administration has to start listening to everybody. 

I met with the Iraqi ambassador today, the ambassador from Iraq.  And

we had a general agreement sitting down—despite the differences that I

have had in terms of whether we even should have gone into Iraq, we had a

general agreement that this is not going to be solved just inside Iraq.  We

have to get the regional players at the table so we that we can have the

kind of diplomatic umbrella that did get the United States off the streets

our military people off the streets of Iraq. 

So everybody seems to understand this except for certain elements in this administration who are so opposed to the notion that we need to be moving forward and engaging our adversaries, like Iran and Syria, and getting a solution that will bring better harmony in the region and allow the United States to move forward and truly fight international terrorism. 

MATTHEWS:  Who are the hawks still left in the administration?  Wolfowitz is over there hanging onto his job at the World Bank.  Doug Feith is over at Georgetown teaching.  Scooter Libby has a legal problem on his hands right now.  Who is left who is a big war hawk?  Richard Perle is out of the game, I think.

WEBB:  Dick Cheney is still very powerful.

MATTHEWS:  Who is—Michael Ledeen is out there on the fringe. Frank Gaffney is somewhere over at AEI or somewhere.  Who is pushing this war inside?

WEBB:  Dick Cheney is still very powerful, obviously.  And then I think that the president himself must be very concerned about how history is going to view what he did, if he doesn‘t have a graceful way to move forward. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WEBB:  And there may be no graceful way to move forward.  And that is why the Congress has had to do what we‘re doing.  Again, we‘re not cutting off any money.  He just doesn‘t like the terminologies that went in to this bill.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Do you think Josh Bolten is a reasonable man?  Will he help negotiate this out to a reasonable conclusion?  He‘s not an ideologue, I don‘t think.  He‘s the president‘s chief of staff.

Are you hopeful of the fact that he‘s going to be negotiating with the leadership, that we might get a deal? 

WEBB:  Well, I don‘t know that.

But I will tell you, what I do know is that the—the biggest positive going on right now is that Condi Rice seems to have rejoined the realist school, you know, from where her roots her, back with Brent Scowcroft. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WEBB:  And we have got a really fine ambassador...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WEBB:  ... on the ground in Iraq.  And we cannot do this without the United States really strongly moving forward on the diplomatic front.

And—and that is where the answer is going to come from. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I hope. 

We have to talk some time.  Someday soon, it would be good if the president would roll some heads, bring some new people in, like he brought Bob Gates in, and really try to adopt, it seems to me, something of the Baker-Hamilton commission ideas.  Otherwise, it is more of this. 

Anyway, thank you very much, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  What are the Republican candidates thinking about on the eve of the first debate, thinking about in terms of their performance?  Are they nervous?  I wonder what the candidates are thinking tonight. 

We have a former candidate coming here, Jack Kemp, to tell us how their knees are knocking as we get toward midnight.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We are here at the Reagan Presidential Library here in Simi Valley.  It‘s out in the middle of the mountains here above—above Los Angeles, what a pretty spot.              

But look at that Air Force One.  There it is.  It‘s kind of funny.  We are going to talk in a minute about the guy who got that plane in this building here.  We‘re going to have our debate right up next to that incredible vehicle that used to carry the president around. 

Former vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp knows what it takes to prep for a debate like tomorrow night.  And he is here to give us his thoughts on how these guys get ready. 

Jack, when you have to debate the next day—I mean, you had to debate Al Gore, Mr. Excitement, at one point.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And you did OK against him.

What is it that you do?  Do you just have a hard time sleeping the night before one of these things?

JACK KEMP, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Not really.  Not really, Chris. 

I spent 13 years in professional football as a quarterback.  So, I wasn‘t—I wasn‘t—my knees weren‘t knocking.  I was excited.  I couldn‘t wait for it to occur. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

KEMP:  But it is not frightening.  It is a thrill to have a chance to talk to the American people in their living room.

MATTHEWS:  So, you really mean to tell me no butterflies for these guys? 

KEMP:  No—butterflies, yes, excitement, but not knocking of knees.   

MATTHEWS:  Perhaps that wasn‘t a masculine enough reference for you, Jack.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But let me ask you this.  Let‘s talk about preparation.

Jack Kennedy famously lie in bed, going through cue cards with his smart people around him, his brain trust.  And he was throwing the cards on the floor after he answered every question.  Richard Nixon thought he could wing it.  Richard Nixon got killed.

Do these candidates have to do their homework? 

KEMP:  Yes, you have got to do your homework.  You have got a book of preparations.  It‘s like a game plan.  You look at the questions.  You look at the answers.  You spent 24, 72 hours on it.

And then you have—I had Judd Gregg, the senator from New Hampshire, ask questions and become Al Gore.  And it was a thrilling experience, to be truthful about it.  I enjoyed every minute of it. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

KEMP:  I wish I had done better.  But, nonetheless, it was a great chance to speak to the American people about what I really felt... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think you were a great candidate for V.P.  I watched you out there campaigning out at your old high school.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I thought it was great, and throwing that football around with those kids.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s—let‘s take a look at a debate you probably remember with a less fond memory.  This is one of the primary debates, back in ‘08, when you were a candidate for president...

KEMP:  Oh, my goodness.

MATTHEWS:  ... on the Republican side, and Ronald Reagan walked into that debate.  Let‘s watch how he stole the show.  This is the New Hampshire primary, 1980. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Mr. Green...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would you turn that microphone off, please?

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The guy‘s name was Breen.  The president—the president, in that case, called him Mr. Green, but he said, turn off the microphone—or put the microphone back on, because he had paid for that debate. 

KEMP:  That‘s one of the great moments...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And George Bush Sr. was trying to close the debate down. 

And Reagan said, no, everybody gets in, including you, Jack.

KEMP:  That, and saying that he was going to prove he wasn‘t too old to run for president, when he said he was going to campaign at all 13 of our states.  I thought that was one of his great comments. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Were you—when you went into that debate up—I think it was Nashua—and you‘re sitting there, and George Bush Sr., who thought he could have a one-on-one with Ronald Reagan, and beat me, said he only wanted to have the two of them fight, and then Reagan came in there and said, I paid for this mike; I want everybody to campaign, everybody...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... tell me what your feelings were and memory of that moment.  That was a hell of a moment.

KEMP:  No, I wasn‘t there.  Like you, I was watching it on TV.  I was up in Buffalo, New York, in my congressional district. 

I did—I ran in ‘88, not 1980.  I was supporting Governor Reagan, candidate Reagan, in ‘80.  And he had promised, as you remember, to cut income tax rates, a la Kemp-Roth.  So, I was very firmly in the Reagan camp. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, this is one of the few times in my memory that I have actually gotten a bad memory.  I somehow remembered you in that debate.

That was Phil Crane.  That was George Bush, a couple of other guys in that room. 

KEMP:  Bob—was Bob Dole in there? 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about—yes, Bob Dole was.  And he did not look too happy, either, when he...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... when he had to deal with that situation. 

What you think Ronald Reagan‘s strength was as a debater?  I mean, he did have some set pieces, like “There you go again,” and “I won‘t let my opponent—I won‘t use my opponent‘s youth and inexperience against him” against Mondale.  We just saw that one.  That was a set piece.

But, “I paid for this microphone,” I do remember Spencer Tracy with that line back in the film “State of the Union” with Katharine Hepburn.  But he seemed to come out with that pretty spontaneously at that moment. 

KEMP:  Well, first of all, Reagan was humorous.  His humor came across.  And I think the American people appreciate that.

Number two, he‘s a nice guy.  I think the American people want to vote for a nice guy—not a weak guy, but a nice guy.  And, thirdly, he had a sweeping view of history and a world view that encompassed the whole world. 

I mean, he really was the first to talk about a freer world, a more democratic world, small-D, and lowering the tax rates on both labor and capital to get the economy moving again, a la John F. Kennedy.  In my opinion, he came the closest to the Kennedy campaign of ‘60.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

And, of course, the bill to cut taxes that came out in 1978 was the Kemp-Roth bill, named after you, sir, because you were the sponsor of the new supply-side philosophy of the Republican Party...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... which was adopted by Ronald Reagan, to his benefit politically, and perhaps to the country‘s benefit.

You are also—thank you—out there, Jack, promoting the book “Making War to Keep Peace.”  It‘s, of course, the book written by the late Jeane Kirkpatrick, the book‘s author.  But you‘re out there promoting the book.

Up next: much more from the Reagan Presidential Library, site of tomorrow‘s first-in-the-country Republican presidential candidates debate.  I am going to moderate among 10 declared candidates. 

Look at the places, the podium where they‘re going to all be speaking from, Giuliani, McCain and Romney among them.  And you will see it here on MSNBC tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern and online, Politico.com, tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

You‘re watching HARDBALL tonight on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

The Dow Jones industrial average closing at a fresh record high of 13211, after gaining more than 75 points.  The S&P 500 gained more than nine-and-a-half points and closed at 1495, the highest close since September of 2000.  And the Nasdaq gained more than 26 points, for a 1 percent rise. 

Stocks were helped today by a larger-than-expected 3.1 percent increase in factory orders for March.  It was the largest increase in a year.  Some analysts think it could be a sign of an improving economy—stocks also getting a boost from higher-than-expected earnings reports from Time Warner, Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut.

And oil prices fell, following a report that U.S. crude inventories increased last week.  Oil dropped 72 cents in New York trading, closing at 73.68 a barrel. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back. 

We are here in the spin room for tomorrow night and HARDBALL.  We‘re at the Reagan Presidential Library, where, tomorrow, we are going to host the first-in-the-country Republican presidential candidates debates right here in this complex, up on the top of the hill here.

You are looking right now, by the way, at the stage where we‘re going to be.  I will be at this end, where that podium is, at the—at the far left.  And the candidates, beginning with Governor Romney, are going to be right across that room. 

It is a broad stretch of candidates, each trying to get in their point of view and their case for their election—certainly, their nomination first—next year.  It is going to be a pretty hot and heavy effort by everybody to get their point across in just a few minutes. 

Mike Barnicle was here yesterday.  He gave us a—he‘s going to give us, right now, a backgrounder on this amazing place, the Reagan Library. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE BARNICLE, NBC ANALYST (voice-over):  Surrounded by majestic mountains, with a view of the Pacific, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is perched on a 100-acre site halfway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California. 

For the president who wanted America to be a shining city on a hill, it‘s a hilltop monument of living history that he helped design.

DUKE BLACKWOOD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, REAGAN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY:  He was involved from the very beginning, starting with the Santa Barbara Mission-style architecture.  He didn‘t want a monolith.  He didn‘t want this—you know, this Washingtonian feel.

BARNICLE (on camera):  Ronald Reagan certainly understood the importance of visual cues, both in the movies and in politics.  And he played an important role in designing his library on the hill, and the role that this library plays in presenting his legacy to future generations.

(voice-over):  Here in the museum, a popular area is Ronald and Nancy Reagan‘s early years together.

BLACKWOOD:  What‘s fascinating is, this is the booth from Chasen‘s restaurant where Ronald Reagan proposed to starlet Nancy Davis.  So, when Chasen‘s closed, they gave us the booth.

BARNICLE:  Duke Blackwood is the executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

BLACKWOOD:  You come here, this is the actual wedding outfit that Mrs.

Reagan wore at the wedding at the Little Brown Church in Studio City.

BARNICLE:  These museum pieces are just one small portion of what visitors from around the world come to see.

BLACKWOOD:  Ever since the president passed away, almost three years ago, one of the most important sites is the grave site.  People come and pay their respects.  There‘s tears shed.  There‘s American flags.  It‘s an emotional experience.

The second is the Oval Office.  We have an exact replica of the Oval Office as it was when President Reagan -- 99 percent of the visitors come here never will get a chance to go in, much less to see the Oval Office.  So, when they come here, there‘s a sense of awe about it.

But the most dramatic is what you see over my shoulder, and that‘s SAM 27000.  It‘s the Air Force One 707 that flew seven presidents around the world.  Again, as you look at it, it sits up here.  You have got this magnificent glass window, a third of an acre of glass.  And she‘s just at about a 2 percent tilt, so it looks like she‘s taking off, she‘s going on one last mission of freedom and democracy.

BARNICLE:  The library is also the repository of Reagan‘s eight years of presidential papers, photos and video.  Here, the National Archives controls some 55 million documents, much of which the public will never see.

BLACKWOOD:  There‘s a process through the National Archives that we must go through.  And that is, they have got to be reviewed before they can be released.  So, we have only got about 10 percent of our holdings.  So, there are some 40 million documents downstairs, 45 million documents downstairs, that still haven‘t—the public is not allowed to see.

BARNICLE:  One popular document many visitors request to see is the president‘s emotional letter revealing to the world that he has Alzheimer‘s disease.  Only a copy is on display.  The original rarely sees the light of day.

(on camera):  How do you preserve a letter like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, first of all, we have it in this Mylar sleeve, so that, you know, it doesn‘t get any fingerprints or anything on it.  And then we preserve it in—all of our storage areas are temperature- and humidity-controlled. 

It‘s kept in an area that‘s dark.  It‘s kept in an acid-free folder, an acid-free box.  And all those together will help to preserve this, hopefully, for at least a couple of hundred years.

BARNICLE (voice-over):  And then there are the presidential gifts.

BLACKWOOD:  Everybody wants to give you something, OK?  And there‘s some 100,000 pieces downstairs that come from the White House Gift Unit.  So, those, the general public doesn‘t get to see, but we try and rotate that stuff up.

BARNICLE:  Whether studying important presidential papers or viewing personal artifacts, presidential libraries connect both scholars and tourists alike through the lives of our nation‘s leaders.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  That‘s what libraries can do.  They really can bring these past figures back to life, in a way that the written word alone cannot, through the combination of pictures, sound, music, and the whole ambiance of the place.

BARNICLE:  I‘m Mike Barnicle, reporting for HARDBALL, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Mike, what did you think of the ambiance up here, when you were here the other day? 

BARNICLE:  Chris, if Michelin had a guide to the marriage of history and politics in this country through libraries, the Reagan Library would get five stars.  It‘s an incredible place.  It‘s too bad that every American can‘t get to see it.  This is the fourth presidential library I have been into.  It‘s spectacular, spectacular vista, and a spectacular library. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it interesting; I have been to the Nixon library, of course, we‘ve been the Kennedy library, you and I both.  I‘ve been to the Harry Truman library.  I have been in the Ford library.  They all have their distinctive personalities that seem to match up with the guy. 

BARNICLE:  Oh, yes.  You‘re there right now, and I know that you can look through the glass windows, beyond Air Force I, and you can see John Ford directing a western.  You can see Gene Autry riding the high Chaperelle (ph).  You can see and get a real sense of who Ronald Reagan was.  Chris, you know better than anyone, having worked on the Hill and having covered politics, and being invested in politics all your life, that what we do in the media is we capture a moment in time for presidents, senators, and everyone. 

We capture it around an event.  But this library captures a longer moment of history in Ronald Reagan‘s life.  It is quite a place.  

MATTHEWS:  Mike, who was Gene Autry‘s horse?  What was the name of the horse? 

BARNICLE:  Champion, I believe. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, you‘re good.  You‘re great.  Now, a tougher one.  Who is going to win an the debate tomorrow night?  The great mentioner said Hillary won the Democrat debate.  Who is going to win the Republican debate?  Come on, stick your neck out.  Who‘s going to win?  You know the ten candidates.

BARNICLE:  John McCain.  John McCain‘s going to win.  He‘s going to win.  OK.

MATTHEWS:  No, I think it‘s a great pick.  I think it‘s great that you have the stuff to make a pick without fear of embarrassment, to stick your good name on the line.  And by the way, we will check you tomorrow night, around 9:30.  OK?

BARNICLE:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Mike Barnicle picking McCain.  Anyway, he‘s going to be staying with.  We are joined right now by Jim Vandehei of the “Politico,” our online partner in tomorrow night‘s debate, and Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post.” 

Vandehei, do you dare agree in making a pick or are you too involved.  

I guess you‘re too involved.

JIM VANDEHEI, “THE POLITICO”:  I dare not agree.

MATTHEWS:  I dare not agree, or dare not even participate.  But let me ask you Eugene Robinson, since you won‘t be on the board of governors tomorrow night, do you believe that you can pick who is going to win this, the way that Hillary Clinton got the—I used to be David Broder of your paper that used to declare these sort of things.  But somebody declared that Hillary won last week, and everyone‘s accepted it.  Who‘s going to win tomorrow night?   

EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  You can‘t know.  It is hard enough to know who won the debate after it, you know, much less before the debate.  Come on. 

MATTHEWS:  I am just dying here.  Gene, I‘m just dying here.  You‘re the one guy who could throw the outlet pass.  You‘re the one guy who can take stand, because you‘re not in this thing tomorrow night.  OK, let me ask you this: will there be a winner tomorrow night?  Can you go that far?

ROBINSON:  Yes, I think there will be a winner.  And here‘s some possible winners:  It John McCain can get his mojo—he‘s doing pretty well, doing better than he was doing.  If he can kind of get his mojo back and be the old John McCain, then he will win. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he poised for a comeback?

ROBINSON:  Yes.  I mean, look, he is the leading candidate.  He has always been the leading candidate, but he kind of tripped over himself for a while, but you know—

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s not the leading candidate in the numbers.  Rudy is the leading candidate in all the numbers. 

ROBINSON:  Yes, but you kind of thought in the back of your mind that Rudy‘s numbers did not mean that much that early in the race. 

MATTHEWS:  I am dying here.  I am dying Gene.  That is so conventional wisdom.  That is so conventional wisdom.  It‘s like cognitive dissidence.  You see Rudy ahead, and you say this can‘t be true.  This is a mirage.  They must not know better.  I know better than they know.  And when they know what I know, Rudy is going down.   

(CROSS TALK)

ROBINSON:  The reason said that is that he does not agree with the Republican party on any of the important issues that are important to the social conservatives. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, that is the cartoon version of the Republican party we are just getting here, which is they‘re all a bunch of bible-thumping, abstinence experts and all that stuff.  I grew up in the suburbs where regular people vote Republican, in the Philadelphia suburbs, just like the Chicago area.  They are regular people.  They are a reasonable mix of pro-choice, some pro-life.  Jim Vandehei, help me here, is Rudy out of this race?  According to Eugene Robinson, the minute they really get the word on the guy, he‘s gone.  

VANDEHEI:  The point I don‘t understand about Eugene‘s logic, which I hear from a lot of people, is that once people know about Rudy, they are not going to support him.  Who, especially in these primary states, does not know about his record?  Who doesn‘t know about it on social issues?  You look at the straw polls in South Carolina, he does pretty darn well. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  How can you be a pro-life mayor in New York? 

VANDEHEI:  I do think over the long haul, it‘s going to be very tough, because there is so much there for Republicans to hit that.  I think we will see a lot of that in tomorrow‘s debate. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a sense, Jim, since you‘ll be there giving us the online questions from people out there—by the way, you might want to make a pitch for that.  Go ahead, make a pitch.   

VANDEHEI:  You can go to Politico.com, and you can vote for questions, live, real time, tomorrow night.  You will help decide which questions I am asking to the audience or to the candidates.  We are probably going to get in about 10-15 questions.  It gives everybody their chance to play moderator.   

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they will mix it up more than the Democrats did?

VANDEHEI:  I absolutely do.  I think Democrats are playing it safe. 

They feel like they have an easier path the to presidency.

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Gene, do you think they will try to distance themselves from the president on the war, or will they go with him and just be loyal soldiers tomorrow night? 

ROBINSON:  I think you will see a lot of loyalty, especially from the major candidates.  I mean, they have tied themselves to him, basically.  It will be interesting to see how Giuliani—you know, if there is any nuance in what Giuliani‘s says. 

MATTHEWS:  That is the word I am looking for.  I am looking for that word, Gene, nuance.  They won‘t say they disagree with the president, but there will be these little carvings around the edges, you know.  Hey Gene, I am sorry I give you a hard time, but then again, I am not sorry. 

ROBINSON:  I know you‘re not sorry Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you Eugene Robinson from the “Washington Post.”  When we return, we will talk to the Duke—not the Duke, but Duke Blackwood.  Where‘s this the Duke from—the executive director of the Reagan presidential library.  We don‘t have any titles out there.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, site of tomorrow night‘s Republican presidential candidates‘ debate, which I will moderate.  the debate stage is right there, below Air Force I.  And Keith Olbermann and I will be anchoring MSNBC‘s coverage just off one of those Air Force I wings. 

Joining us right now is the executive director of the Reagan Library, Duke Blackwood.  We‘ve got the big camera taking a look at this, Duke.  This interesting—there it is.  Describe how you got that plane in there so that it could be our backdrop tomorrow night.   

DUKE BLACKWOOD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR REAGAN LIBRARY:  Well, we had to build two thirds of it.  We left the back of it open.  The fuselage was the main part.  The wings were apart.  We had a special truck that came in.  Mrs. Reagan did a checkered flag.  We moved it in, and then what happened is we had do build it, put it back together, lift it up on those three pillars, and that‘s what you get to see.   

MATTHEWS:  And that is the plane that President Reagan and many presidents before him, going back to Johnson, used to get around in, right? 

BLACKWOOD:  Seven total presidents. 

MATTHEWS:  The actual plane?

BLACKWOOD:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  And we were in there today.  We are going to be showing you tomorrow night our little trip in there, where I used to sit, which is nice.  And you get a sense of what it was like to work there.  Let me ask you about tomorrow night, because we‘re going to have an unusual setting.  This may be the first ever sort of outdoorsy presidential debate.  It is going to have the feel of the outdoors, this mountaintop here in California.  Look at that, see that stage down, everybody watching?  See that amazing almost “Star Wars” looking stage there, with all the glitter and the flag, of course, emblematic across the back drop. 

Ten different lecterns, 10 candidates of various persuasions of Republican or conservative.  From Ron Paul, the libertarian, to Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York; tremendous scope and width of ideas.  How much what Ronald Reagan—Well, how much does Nancy Reagan look forward to—she is going to be sitting in the first row, hosting this thing? 

BLACKWOOD:  Well, she is very excited.  She invited personally all the 10 candidates.  And I think the setting is perfect, because if you‘re a candidate up there, and you‘re sitting there at the lectern, listening to you for the questions, behind you is that airplane, which is Air Force I.  That‘s what they‘re striving for.  

MATTHEWS:  To get on that plane.  Well, Nancy is wonderful.  She gave me this opportunity, personally, to come out here.  And I will tell you, it is a thrill.  I think it‘s fascinating, because we do not have any incumbent vice-president.  We don‘t have any incumbent president.  This is the first time since 1928 that nobody in power has tried to hold on to power.  It‘s a wide open race.  And tell me about the importance of that to the library.

BLACKWOOD:  Well, what is interesting is that that is true.  They are all trying to align themselves with Ronald Reagan, because there is no incumbency or vice president.  So, again, if you take a look at history, this has been so long, but everybody wanting to be Ronald Reagan, and having the debate here in the House of Reagan, I think it is perfect. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the Democrats used to do the same thing.  Everybody wanted to be Jack Kennedy after 1963.  And now everybody wants to be Reagan in the Republican party. 

BLACKWOOD:  Right, and, you know, we are blessed with a great president, and here at the library, we tell the story. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean you are blessed with a great man to memorialize here? 

BLACKWOOD:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  You have grave sites out here, overlooking the hill.  Of course, everybody watched the burial out here. 

BLACKWOOD:  Right, and it is an emotional stand point there.  But what I find interesting is the candidates—I think they are going to get a little bit of goose bumps when they come in here, because the road to the presidency is now coming through the House of Reagan.  And I think it‘s going to very exciting.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘ve raised my romance already for this evening.  I think of some of these candidates; the word goose bumps does not come to mind.  They seem a bit professional.  But we will see if they are romantic.  It will be great to see if they do rise to the occasion in debating each other.  We will put on a real good political show tomorrow night, in the best sense of that word, people saying what they believe and not being afraid to defend those position against other points of view. 

Anyway, thank you Duke, a great host for us here.  We‘ll be right back on HARDBALL from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, site of tomorrow night‘s first in the country debate, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, getting ready for the big debate, which I‘m going to be very fortunate to be able to moderate.  But as part of a mini college tour, we have the kids here from Pepperdine University, from nearby, from Malibu.  It must be rough going to school in Malibu.  It used to be you pick a school based on geography and ratio.  I see that the ratio here is about right, one to one.

Let‘s start with your big issues.  You guys have all picked an issue. 

I‘ll cue you with the issue.  You tell me what‘s got to be done about it. 

Ready, Iraq and Vietnam. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, after Vietnam, we had the Vietnam Syndrome.  Let‘s avoid that.  I think folks our age want two things out of Iraq.  They want the troops home, but they want them to come home having won.  That‘s what we need to do.

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t always get what you want. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re right. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to Aaron.  The issue is the Republican party image. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, sir, I want to see the Republican party candidates show the vitality and the relation to the American people that we see Barack Obama show.  He‘s very hot with young people right now.  I want to see this with some of the Republican candidates. 

MATTHEWS:  RNC ought to be watching.  U.S. image abroad. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s very important to our generation.  More of our students are traveling abroad than any other.  We need an administration that restores that pride in our country. 

MATTHEWS:  Brendan, your issue is Darfur.  Should we help Darfur? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, of course, unfortunately, it‘s moved into the periphery of our view and I want a candidate who has some answers and who wants to tackle this head on. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Clayton, what about the economy? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I feel there are too many restrictions on companies here in the United States.  Small company growth and forcing them to leave the United States.  I‘d like to see some incentives for that. 

MATTHEWS:  John, Fred Thompson, getting in or not? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You talked about him earlier, about a street fight with Ahmadinejad.  I can‘t imagine anyone that I would rather have.   

MATTHEWS:  Savannah, what about poverty?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I want to see them address it.  I want to see a national living wage.  I want them to address the issues, bridge the gaps between do‘s and don‘ts. 

MATTHEWS:  John, what about terrorism? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Two questions, Chris, offensive or defensive policy and is this an existential threat? 

MATTHEWS:  Noel, public education. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think that education should be reformed in our country, that we should enable all of our children to have it. 

MATTHEWS:  Ryan, border wall necessary, yes or no?   

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir.  We need a wall. 

MATTHEWS:  And one last question to Kaitlin, climate change, big issue? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, the crisis that we‘re facing economically in the future is going to be so much worse. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s great.  Tucker is coming up right now.  What a great show.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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